Most kids while growing up, at one time or another, have a place that is all theirs. Be it an abandoned building, a secluded spot in the woods, a railroad bridge or a long forgotten graveyard, these places were the things of excitement and local youth-legend. These were places where kids ruled actual structure, where kids were the authority, where kids could be free. More often than not these sanctuaries from conventional authority became safe havens for drinking and pot smoking. Whatever the result of these times, they were fun. They made your blood pump in your veins in the dark, they made you alive.
I grew up in suburban Long Island in the late 70's and early 80's and I had several such places. The Ashton house, EA, The Villa, they were places of amazing inspiration and boundless freedom.
Recently, Colorado Springs lost such a place to the massive housing construction project at Gold Hill Mesa. "The Ruins", which were remnants of the gold ore processing mill at 21st st. and highway 24 were recently levelled.
The unique thing about, the ruins is that -- unlike the places where I hung out -- everyone in town knew about them. This place was famous. Urban legend regarding them flows like water and is offered up freely at their very mention. The tales about the place center clearly around some kind of a satanic cult that supposedly performed rituals there but others, such as tales of subterranean troglodytes, can also be heard.
One thing is clearly factual about the place though; It was magical, high-voltage fun for the kids who spent time there. I'm grateful for every such place and every such memory that I have.
Here are some first person accounts of the infamous "21st St. Ruins of Colorado Springs". If you have any stories about them, or stories of similar places from your past, please feel free to contribute.
"Generally when one thinks of satanic ritual, teenage licentiousness, and drunken disinhibition, colorado springs is not the first place to come to mind. But borne of the loins of our great city lived the infamous ruins: a place of urban legend, a taggers dreamland, a dangerous hinterworld of holes, broken glass and cement walls. It was the dark underbelly of city living, and the closest place to perform the rites of passage into rebellion involving the above stated activities. I can't imagine many punks, goths, metal heads, etc who hadn't visited this place based on simple rumor of the joys it encompassed. And in my opinion, those rumors were true. From the first step of trespassing into that realm, it somehow smacked of adventure. Maybe i'm just easy to please, but the ruins will be lovingly remembered and lamented. Even if i possibly was poisoned with arsenic. Gold Hill Mesa...fuck you.." - anonymous
"I remember that it was supposed to be a really good place to get beat up" -SL
"You entered The Ruins on 21th St. about half way up the hill. There was a little dirt road loop that you went down. I don't think you could see the series of parked cars from 21st Street, which would explain cops never showing up and breaking up any fun that was had. During the day it was just brown and dusty, and not many buildings were still visible, but it was really dark at night. There was a big smoke stack you could walk into and look straight up at the sky. There were also a series of underground tunnels and rooms (all covered in graffiti, of course) that were particularly scary at night.
Most of who hung out there were punks, and I'm amazed I'd never seen any homeless there as it was the perfect shelter from the weather. We used to build big bonfires in one of the underground rooms." - Josh
"I was in a photography class at UCCS, and a then classmate (now friend) showed some shots of the Ruins. I was instantly enamored and had to see the place myself. I think it was February when I went the first time. Mid-morning and still very cold, the place was deserted and sort of eerily quiet for being so close to 24.
I went back to shoot a few more times before I moved to New York in August that year. As it got warmer, occasionally other people would show up. I remember hearing stories about "the Satanists" hanging out there. I suspect that these guys I'd see were just going to hang out and smoke some weed, or spraypaint or something. I'd always leave once other people arrived, nonetheless.
I was sorely disappointed to return to CS to visit some friends and find that they were gone." -AK
"It was a place that was used for occult ritual and sacrifice" - anonymous
"There were a bunch of run down buildings, and then there were places where there were like, wells, and you could see water down below. One night we were there, there was this story about the bottom dwellers, and apparently there were these people who lived in the sewer tunnels. And some of our friends are kind of egging it on, that there are these bottom dwellers, and me and a couple of my friends are starting to get a little scared, especially when we all branched off and separated. And I was walking around and, well, I was really young and things just go through your head. We went on for about fifteen minutes telling the story about these people that lived at the bottom, these bottom dwellers. After it went all around and we searched the ruins I finally got scared and ran all the way home, down 21st street." - DC
NP: "Were there underground rooms? I mean rooms that are below the surface."
DC: "That I've heard, yes, but I've never seen them. There was one time that I saw a pig's head stuck on a stake. I don't know if was for a satanic ritual or not, but a head being on a stake, or a pigs head, well, that's kinda freaky."